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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Boris Johnson has launched a pre-emptive strike against Jeremy Corbyn. Last night he posted a letter to the Labour leader on social media (see embedded tweet below) demanding answers to four important questions:

  • Does he want the UK to Remain or Leave the EU?
  • Will he “maintain and extend” free movement as decreed by the party membership?
  • How much is he prepared to pay into the EU coffers if we do indeed leave under a Labour government?
  • And if he were given the opportunity to go back to Brussels and negotiate a new deal, can Corbyn guarantee all his MPs would be behind it?

In some ways Boris is doing his rival a favour. Corbyn has a self-defeating habit of straying off topic. Anyone who saw his interview on the Andrew Marr show at the weekend will have been struck at how little he cared for the big issue facing the country, arguably the greatest since the Second World War, namely Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. 

When the subject of Labour’s deal going to the Commons and potentially getting rejected came up, Corbyn had no answer. Boris is focusing his attention on the vital issues, If Corbyn can’t guarantee his MPs will back the future deal, how can he assure Remain voters he’ll get a referendum. If not, the most he can promise is yet more purgatory.

Curiously Labour HQ are though to be chuffed at how Corbyn and other spokespeople – see Jon Ashworth performing miserably here – have managed to wedge in not credible doomsday warnings about the NHS being sold off to big US finance. No, it looks like clumsy filibustering.

Not only that, raising the subject of the NHS encourages voters to weigh up incompetent Corbyn against austerity-ending Boris. Note, when it comes to national healthcare, the Tory leader is as trusted as his Labour counterpart, astonishing when you consider Labour created the NHS and is universally viewed as its eternal guardian. Corbyn is an out and out socialist, while Mr Capitalist, Boris audaciously backed the bankers in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Apart from anything, Boris’s letter makes him look like a man of action, which he of course he is compared to Corbyn, whose fondness for attending extremist rallies doesn’t exactly shift the dial, nor should it. 

Boris has also dealt a blow to Scottish nationalists who are yearning desperately for a second independence referendum.  

“I’m ruling it out. I think it’s a bad idea,” said the PM last night. “I’ve made it very clear that the people of Scotland were told emphatically in 2014 that this was a once-in-a-generation event, and they were promised that they would not be driven to the polls. I think we should abide by that.”

Hardly surprising, but worthwhile nonetheless in making the Tory position heard loud and clear. Many Labour voters are passionate unionists. Boris’s gesture shines the light back on Corbyn, who on Sunday would only rule out another referendum north of the English border in early years of his premiership. That’s if he gets a majority of course, but the path to that outcome is blocked directly by none other than the SNP. Without seats in Scotland Labour are not and will never again be a ruling party, governing on their own. 

Vote Labour, get a weak coalition government and the dissolution of the Union. That’s the message, it’s a strong one.